As the weather starts to turn and the cold chill envelopes the UK, it starts to bring household problems with it. All pipes in your home can feel the freeze, quite literally, as they always have some water in them that is subject to icing over when temperatures plummet below 0 degrees Celsius.
It’s important to always check on your household pipes during any spells of cold weather, making sure they are never able to completely freeze.
In this guide, we will cover how to check if your pipes are indeed frozen, provide tips and advice on preventing frozen pipes, and products that are available to help you to provide a layer of protection against the cold.
Why do pipes freeze?
As mentioned, pipes around the house always have some water in them and this freezes in extremely cold weather. As water expands when it freezes, this puts massive pressure on the pipe from the inside.
The more water that is in the pipe at the time of freezing, the more pressure is placed on the pipe. The shape and age of the pipe itself will also be deciding factors in whether the pipe can withstand the pressure, with the risk of completely bursting and causing a further, much larger issue.
How to check whether your pipes are frozen
It’s important to be able to identify whether your pipes are frozen or not, and there are some things to look out for.
1. Water blocked from the tap
If very little or no water comes out when the tap is turned on, this is a telltale sign that the water in the pipes may be frozen. This is relevant for any taps in the home, including in the bathroom and kitchen.
2. Visible frost on the pipe
If you can see signs of frost on the outside of the pipe, then the chances are that the frost has also made its way to the inside of the pipe.
3. Odd smells coming from the drains
When pipes are blocked by standing ice, it can mean any unpleasant odours have nowhere to go but back up through the drain.
4. Sections of the walls, carpets or ceilings are damp
Keep an eye out for any signs of damp on walls and floors, such as the appearance of mould and mildew, and excessive condensation on windows. These could be further signs that pipes are blocked.
Tips for preventing frozen pipes
So, how do you go about preventing any internal pipes from freezing? Following these tips is a great place to start.
1. Switch your heating on regularly
It’s important to keep turning the heating on at regular intervals throughout sustained periods of cold weather so that hot water can travel through the pipes. If you switch your heating off completely, the chances of pipes freezing are much higher.
2. Turn on taps consistently
It’s not just the heating that you’ll need to switch on regularly, it’s the taps too. Switching on the hot tap every day, even for short periods, allows hot water to travel through the pipes and prevent freezing.
3. Have your boiler serviced
If your heating does not work effectively and your boiler is not operating at 100%, then your internal pipe system will be more vulnerable to the cold. Make sure to get your boiler serviced every year, which is best done a few months before winter begins.
4. Insulate your pipes and water tanks
There are products available to buy from Insulation Express, which allow you to protect your pipes and water tank against the possibility of freezing. More on this is explained below.
What to do if your pipes are frozen
If your pipes are unfortunately frozen, there are steps you can take.
1. Turn the heating on
By switching the heating on, the warm air can help heat the pipes and thus could help thaw the ice.
2. Heat the pipes directly
You could use a hairdryer to apply heat to the pipes from the outside if you have been able to identify which pipes are frozen for those exposed or accessible to you. It’s important never to use boiling water or an open flame, as these could cause the pipe to burst.
3. Use an infrared lamp
If you can locate where in the wall the frozen pipe is, you could place an infrared lamp in front of it. The heat from the lamp may then be able to penetrate the wall and allow the pipe to defrost.
Available Pipe Insulation products
There are several pipe insulation products available to buy from Insulation Express, which can help in preventing the possibility of frozen pipes.
These products can thermally and acoustically insulate all pipework in your home. They include the likes of Kingspan Kooltherm Pipe Insulation and Armacell AF/Armaflex Class O Pipe Insulation, which are great options for giving your pipes an extra layer of thermal protection.
Once you have the materials, the foam is straightforward to install since it just fits around your pipes. If you’re not comfortable doing this yourself, you could ask a professional to install them. It’s certainly worth looking into though and can save you up to £70 on your energy bills per year.
There are also other blogs you can read through related to this topic, including a step-by-step guide on insulating tanks, pipes and radiators.